22-February-2013 -- EWTNews Feature |

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Islamic militants step up kidnappings in west Africa

Islamist militants in Nigeria and Cameroon have abducted numerous westerners in recent weeks, following France's Jan. 11 military intervention to prevent Islamist rebels from seizing southern Mali.

A family of seven were kidnapped Feb. 19, and French president Francois Hollande told reporters, "I see the hand of Boko Haram in that part of Cameroon."

Boko Haram is a militant Islamist group from Nigeria, whose name means "Western education is sinful." It seeks to overthrow the government and impose Shariah law throughout Nigeria. It has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on Christians and is reportedly involved with rebels and terrorist groups in the region.

Over the years, Boko Haram has been responsible for an estimated 2,800 people according to Human Rights Watch, including more than 690 in 2012, according to the Associated Press.

The family abducted in Cameroon includes four minor children. They were taken in the far north of the country, near Waza National Park and Lake Chad.

One of Cameroon's foreign minister said on French TV that the family has already been transferred to neighboring Nigeria by the Islamists.

French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Feb. 20 that while the French government believes the kidnapping was perpetrated by Boko Haram, it did not seem to have a direct link with the French intervention in Mali.

In early February, nine polio vaccinators were killed in attacks after a Muslim cleric spoke out against vaccination. Another prominent Muslim leader in Nigeria was attacked, and his bodyguards killed, by Islamists on Feb. 7.

On Feb. 16, seven westerners were abducted in northern Nigeria. They work for a construction company in the north-central area of the country. Responsibility for the abduction was claimed by Ansuru, which is believed to be an offshoot of Boko Haram.

The group attacked a convoy of Nigerian troops deploying to Mali on Feb. 20, killing two officers.

In December a French engineer was kidnapped near Katsina, in far-northern Nigeria, by Ansuru.

Islamists attacked numerous Catholic and Protestant churches in Nigeria last year. Most of this violence occurs in the Muslim-dominated north, but it is spreading to the south, which has a Christian majority.

France sent troops to Mali when Islamists there started to move on the southern region of the country. They had seized the northern part of the country in April. The rebels there have been driven out of towns in Mali and back into desert and mountainous areas.

Read more: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/World.php?id=7081#ixzz2Lfa8zBBP

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